PROUDFOOT, JONES & McQUESTEN
Solicitors in Chancery, &C.,
OFFICE, No. 11 Main Street East
WILLIAM PROUDFOOT, Q.C. JOHN W. JONES
I.B. McQUESTEN, M.A.
W2354 TO DR. CALVIN BROOKS MCQUESTEN from his brother Isaac B. McQuesten
Mar 22 1873
To: Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten
From: Hamilton, Ontario
My dear Brother
Your letter has just been received, and I will answer it at once for two reasons: first that you may want to know that it and the stone arrived all right, for attending to which please accept my best thanks. It is very well cut; couldn't have been better. I will send you whatever it cost. In the second place, I want you to do what you suggested yourself: write father a letter thanking him for the chain. A kindly, affectionate letter from you will give him much more pleasure than the chain probably would give you. He's not as you know yourself the strong, robust-minded man he was a few years back; and these little attentions from his sons are the only gleams of home happiness he has. Indeed if you could drop him a note occasionally, it would do him good. Don't speak to him of money matters. He dont [sic] care about them; and they can all be between you & me.
Now, lest I forget them, I'll answer at once your questions. You ask about Nelly1 & Mrs. S. Well, they are flourishing. As to the latter, I think her character is well known to both of us. As to Nellie, I have reason to suspect she is playing a double game. A good deal I have found out. Now they are (Mrs. McQ. & she) in a fair way of being pitted against one another. Mrs. McQ. in one way will lie, in another she will not. Her memory is bad; her judgement & power of drawing conclusions from premises still worse; and from a guilty carelessness in these three things: memory, judgement & reason; she is constantly guilty of lying. But as to pure, deliberate lying, I have never had reason to suspect her of it.2 She and Nellie have had communications--confidential--Mrs. McQ. in a fit of anger--about which I wrote you--made statements of what Nellie has said to her. Which, whether they be true or false, it was dishonorable [sic] in Mrs. Mc[Q]. even to repeat to me or anyone else. But all the better for me that she did. These I asked Nellie about. Nellie denied in toto. I have nearly got them at logger-heads; & must manage to complete it. Mrs. McQ. made some communications to & wished Nellie to do some things, which Nellie refused to do. To find out these is my object now. I don't want to appear to press Nellie. But think I will soon manage to get them out of her.
By "If Hamilton should become my home once more that one woman can scare me." Do you mean Mrs. Sawyer? She is a little more careful now since I opened out to her the unpleasantness that might attend a slander suit, when she made [??] circulated certain stories about David Ormiston. I never saw a woman so thoroughly frightened. You needn't be alarmed about her.
As to father and me, he advised me, when he saw that to marry & bring a wife to live at home would be impossible, to marry when I wished & he would offer no objections to my living away from home.3 If sickness came, he said you must come home; and appeared to incline that it would be better for you to come anyway. One thing we must exercise a little caution about. With father, his main wish is to be at peace, whatever it may cost; and therefore I wish to do no more than sound him & tell him he had better not, for his own comfort, say in so many words that he wants you to come home. And if Mrs. Mac [sic] begins to pitch into him, he can say that if you wish to live at home he has no objections to find; & can deny that it is at his express desire. All this may seem to you rather foolish beating about the bush. But I can assure you the day will come when you will own there is some sense in it. She has declared that you will not live in that house. And when she finds that you will, there will be a storm even more boisterous than the one I described to you in January.
You ask about the McKeands. There are none of them at the house now.4 Clarence was there for some time. Father spoke to me about the matter. But as he was there mainly so that he could see the Dr., it might have seemed a little cruel to make any opposition. Father said this morning that it was Mrs McQ.'s idea to get them into town again. That the McKeands had not spoken of it, but the aforesaid partly had. Of course you see the drift. I will know more of this soon. As there is a dividend of 6 or 7 % on Archie McKeand's estate. [sic] As they have the offer (or had) of the place they are living in at Wellington Sq. at a low rate: $100 per yr for 12 years, & as father's share of the dividend will be about $300. I am to offer to pay the first three instalments, provided Archie McK. [sic] will agree to meet the rest. This will shew [sic] whether they intend remaining there.
The lot you asked me about on S.E. corner Maiden lane, I don't know who owns. There is a blacksmith shop on it. It is next to impossible to find a house. I have intended for three weeks to write Dr. O. just as soon as I find one, so as to give him an idea of about what time the shew would come off. And every day I have expected in a couple of days later to be able to inform him & so I have been kept all along. Now I have had the promise of a positive answer on Monday; and as soon as I get it I will communicate with him.
My trips to Toronto are more profitable than they used to be. Every one since I commenced business has given from $[5??] to $10.00 a day with travelling expenses paid. So I can attend two courts at the same time.
Now, my Skeleton, I think I have played myself out. Do you sit down soon, with that swell Meerschaum & pot of lager, and do likewise. Meanwhile
O Aesculapian5 one
I am as ever yours
1 In this letter, Isaac alternates between "Nelly" and "Nellie," although he is apparently referring to the same person; it is likely Nellie McKeand, Elizabeth Fuller relative whom she has brought into the house to live with her. For more on the McKeands, see below, and see W4535.
2 Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten, Dr. Calvin McQuesten's third wife and stepmother to his sons. She could be demanding and emotionally abusive, and her behaviour grew worse as time went on. Her sister, a Mrs. Currier, had been institutionalized by 1857 for severe mental or emotional disturbances (W1216) and later Isaac alludes to the possibility that Elizabeth may also be suffering from mental illness (W2436).
3 At this time Isaac was engaged; he and wife Mary Baker McQuesten were married on June 18, 1873, approximately three months after this letter was written. (Calvin Brooks did not attend his brother's wedding, see W1380, W2328, W2408.) Because of the misery and emotional abuse that Isaac and his father were subjected to by Isaac's stepmother, Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten, Isaac did want to make his wife stay at "Whitehern" (then called "Willowbank"). Instead, he managed to purchase adjacent lots (#1 and 3) on Bold Street, one lot for Mary and himself and the other for Mary's dear and aging parents, Rev. Thomas and Mary-Jane (McIlwaine) Baker. See Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten in above and below footnotes.
4 The McKeands (W4535) were apparently related to Elizabeth and were likely from the United States. Elizabeth herself was American. Although she often visited with them and had them over for dinner, Dr. McQuesten rarely spoke or dined with them as he did not appreciate their company; Elizabeth, however, paid her husband's discomfort no mind and insisted he bring them to Hamilton permanently (W2348, W2368). For more on Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten, see W4535, W-MCP5-6.351, and see Dr. Calvin McQuesten's biography by clicking on his picture in "Family."
5 Aesculapius was the Roman god of medicine and healing.